Championship One enters the last set of fixtures with two unresolved issues - the title, and the second relegation place.
The weather dictated that the summit battle between Undercliffe and Wrenthorpe last week did not happen, but the former won a re-arranged fixture against Ossett the following day to go two points clear at the top.
Undercliffe now have the upper hand in the title race, but have a difficult match at Bankfoot. They need a fairly convincing victory to frustrate Wrenthorpe who will be expected to beat inconsistent Baildon.
Bankfoot’s James Lee will be a dangerous opponent for Undercliffe, while veteran spinner Mushtaq Ahmed of Baildon could well make Wrenthorpe sweat.
Wrenthorpe skipper Jordan Sleightholme is hoping to end the season on a high. He said: “Fortunately, we were able to secure promotion a couple of weeks ago which took a lot of the pressure off going into the last couple of games.
“We were obviously looking forward to the game last week against Undercliffe, which we expected would go a long way to deciding who'd finish up as champions. It was a real shame that the weather got in the way and made the day a complete washout”.
“With Ossett not able to turn Undercliffe over last Sunday, we are now relying on Bankfoot to try and do us a favour for us to have a chance of winning the league. But we know what a difficult place Bankfoot is to go and win, and so Undercliffe will have a challenge on their hands there”.
“The important thing for us is to control our game, and hopefully end the season on a high against Baildon. We had a tricky game in the reverse fixture earlier in the season on a difficult pitch, and we know how important it will be to keep their danger men quiet come Saturday.
“The most pleasing thing for us this season has been our ability to get through tight games with people standing up when it's mattered, and everyone contributing big performances at different points in the season.
“This is particularly true of some of the younger lads in the side who've made a real impact this year. Those tight wins in particular are what have put us in a great position going into this weekend and we'd have absolutely taken this at the start of the year.
“As I’ve said before, promotion was the aim at the start of the season after the disappointment of the final day last year, and it was a huge relief to secure that a couple of weeks ago”.
Sleightholme concludes-“Hopefully we end this season on a high before the challenge of next year; something that I think everyone at the club is looking forward to. We know there will have to be some hard graft over the winter, but we are excited about the challenge of playing better teams week in week out and testing ourselves at the top level in the BCL”.
With Yeadon relegated, real interest surrounds the battle to stay out of the other relegation place with Hunslet Nelson (186 pts), Ossett (191 pts), Gomersal (191 pts) and Hartshead Moor (202 pts) all in danger of going down.
Ossett’s valuable bonus points from their Undercliffe defeat took them out of the bottom two for now.
It is arguable whether Ossett should have been in relegation danger this season given that they have players of the calibre of James Van Der Merwe, Ian Philliskirk and Joe Finnigan, but they have been, and need to beat Batley to be sure of survival.
Batley will be no pushovers and have players like Naveed Zamurad and Muhammad Shahnawaz who can both turn a match in their side’s favour.
Hunslet Nelson now occupy the second bottom place and have a tough encounter at third place Morley who are formidable opponents on their own patch. It will take a heroic effort to take sufficient points from this encounter to survive.
Captain Will Stiff is philosophical about this weekend: ““We have had a season with many ups and downs, so to be still in with a chance of staying up going into the last game, is a huge testament to the effort put in by the side. All we can do is focus on trying to beat a solid Morley side that have been consistent all year. The hope is that a win will be enough, but unfortunately that is out of our hands,” he said.
“Good luck to all concerned”.
The Gomersal v Hartshead Moor clash will be a tense affair given the fact that if Ossett and Hunslet Nelson gain big point hauls, they could be overtaken. In this situation, both teams will be going all out for the win which will guarantee their Championship One status. It is possible that a decent points tally in defeat could make them secure, but it would be too risky to think like that.
Pudsey Congs never really threatened promotion, but they have endeavoured to develop young talent like Vikram Sharma and Sam Wisniewski and finished as high as could be expected. They will want to end the season well when they face relegated Yeadon, who will be anxious to keep their better performers James Todd and young spinner James Massheder on their books for next season.
Fixtures: Pudsey Congs v Yeadon, Bankfoot v Undercliffe, Morley v Hunslet Nelson, Ossett v Batley, Gomersal v Hartshead Moor, Wrenthorpe v Baildon.
Wakefield St Michael’s now have the advantage in the title race after closest rivals Keighley were thwarted by the weather last week in their desire to pull back the points deficit.
St Michael’s, who now have a 11-point lead at the top know that any victory at Hopton Mills will give them the title no matter what Keighley do at Northowram Fields. It could be tricky at Hopton who have the leading wicket-taker in the division in Michael Carroll (41-wickets).
Keighley will have to quell the scoring of John Lister and Dru Patel who have both passed the 500-run mark in the league.
The Altofts v Bowling Old Lane clash features two teams who were expected to be among the front runners, but have had to settle for a healthy top half position.
Altofts would surely have been contenders if their prolific all rounder Farrouk Alam had been available for the first half of the season, while the Old Lane couldn’t transfer their rampant Jack Hampshire Cup form into league combat.
Buttershaw St Paul’s, who play Brighouse, have had an exceptional season with Amer Ayoub proving to be one of the best all rounders in the division. Brighouse have also been competitive and in Deron Greaves have a player that regularly makes things happen for them.
Birstall have faltered in the league after being genuine promotion contenders at one point with Ian Carradice, Peter Gregerson and Rishi Limbechaya pointing the way. They complete their season on a Carlton wicket that has seen some high scores on their excellent wicket.
Carlton’s Daniel White and Arman Hussain have impressed this season and they will be keen to hang on to them.
Bottom side Liversedge will want to end the season on a good note when they play East Ardsley who probably expected more of their season. Ardsley’s best batsman Haseen Bashir will doubtless try to reach his 500-run league target.
Fixtures: Hopton Mills v Wakefield St Michael's, Altofts v Bowling Old Lane, Buttershaw St Paul's v Brighouse, Carlton v Birstall, Liversedge v East Ardsley, Northowram Fields v Keighley, Free: Spen Victoria.
Second-placed Adwalton stole a march on their promotion rivals Azaad by being involved in the only game to see any action on a rainy day.
They took some valuable bonus points in an abandoned game taking them three points clear of Azaad who could not start.
Adwalton’s opponents Rodley built a challenging score of 249-4 in 45 overs, while in reply they romped to 127-1 off just 11 overs before rain brought an early end to the game. Matthew Donohoe hit seven sixes and seven fours in a rousing 88 not out.
Jer Lane has proved to be the outstanding side in the division, and have deservingly won promotion and need just two points from their final game to clinch the title in their first season.
Raqeeb Younis and Tom Watson have both averaged in excess of 50 in the league, while veteran spinner Gurdev Singh tops the wicket-takers.
They visit East Leeds, who although in mid-table, has proved to be a tough nut to crack this season, with all rounder Tom Chapman their most productive cricketer.
Adwalton and Azaad have difficult away games, but the pressure is on the latter as a full 20-point victory may not be good enough for them. Adwalton will be promoted with a haul of 18-points, but it could get very tense.
Adwalton are at Oulton who have been involved in the promotion race virtually all season. They have dangerous players in William Harrison and Jack Andrews to spike Adwalton’s chances.
Oulton themselves still have an outside chance of promotion, but to overtake Adwalton they will need to beat them with a 17-points swing. However, they could catch Azaad if they falter if they gain a 14-point swing.
Azaad have a long trail to Great Preston knowing that they will have to contend with quality players Jacob Wright and Jack Morrison.
Adwalton are in the unique position where both their First and Second Team play Oulton, and victories in these matches will set off a double promotion party for the club-
Committee man Paul Bennett is very aware of his club’s situation-
“We go into this last weekend’s games against Oulton knowing that two good victories will see both teams promoted, but the same could equally apply to our opponents- so we know Saturday’s games will be anything but straight forward”
“In what has been a rollercoaster season for us it does seem appropriate that it will come down to the very last game. We have showed great resolve and have put in a lot of hard work to get back into this position after our mid season blip. But, we know we need to go to the well one more time to make sure we achieve the goals we set ourselves at the start of the year”.
Bennett concludes- “Hopefully the weather won’t play any part and promotion will be decided on the pitch”.
Heckmondwike & Carlinghow has had a disappointing season despite the all round efforts of Paul Cooper, and they have a tough last match at home to Sandal.
The away team have strength in depth in their batting in Karl Hewitt, Matthew Westwood and Kristian Shuttleworth, and can bowl out sides cheaply with their 3-pronged attack of Benjamin Van Den Nieuwenhof, Sam Noden and Lee Geldard.
Sandal will probably see this season as a missed opportunity given the talent in their ranks.
Rodley have made a marked improvement this season and have got off the basement this time with six victories. All rounder Robert Young remains their best player, but Lachlan Roach (551 runs) has also impressed.
Last week they were involved in the only game to see any action in the Conference. They stood up very well to promotion seeking Adwalton, setting a challenging score of 249-4 with opener Gary Sagar scoring 115.
Rodley journey to Gildersome & Farnley Hill to conclude their season knowing that Liam Pearson will battle for the home team until the end.
Windhill & Daisy Hill might not have won many games, but they play with great spirit epitomised by their veteran Mazhar Bhatti who finds defeat very hard to stomach. They end their season at the scenic Crossbank Methodists ground knowing they will need to bat very well against in-form James Abbott.
Fixtures: East Leeds v Jer Lane, Heckmondwike & Carlinghow v Sandal, Great Preston v Azaad, Oulton v Adwalton, Gildersome & Farnley Hill v Rodley, Crossbank Methodists v Windhill & Daisy Hill.
Picture: Bankfoot captain James Lee poses a threat to Undercliffe.